Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Studio Time

Since winter is fabric designing time, I try to limit my teaching schedule during the season. It takes a lot of concentration to design a line of fabric, which is usually 9 to 10 patterns in three colorways. Sometimes the muse is illusive and takes a while to settle in, but this year the ideas flowed smoothly and I was able to turn in my work ahead of schedule. This has left me with some delicious quality time to pursue some activities that have been on the waiting list for a long time.

First of all, I have developed a line of limited edition fine art prints based on some of my favorite textile designs. Each image is printed with archival inks on heavy 8.5" by 11" rag paper, signed and numbered. Perfect for framing, the matte finish and crisp graphic make a rich combination. I am thrilled to see this project come to fruition and hope to work on some larger prints in the future.

I am also taking lessons to learn Adobe Illustrator and Bernina Artista Embroidery software. It is often overwhelming and makes my head spin. But progress is being slowly made.

After all this computer work I was feeling the need to fondle some fabric and make an art quilt. This new piece is a continuation of the Totem Series. My mind has been in a symmetrical phase lately. I wanted this piece to be filled with characters from my landscape, beginning with seeds and salamanders.

With every photo you can see a bit of the designs evolution. I began by making the initial shapes in fabric. Even if a character is eventually weeded out of the composition, I know that it will not be wasted, it will just become the incentive for another piece in the future. The design grows and shifts as the shapes begin to converse.

The spring weather has also inspired the design. The snowdrops and crocus are up and the pointy little fingers of tulips and hostas are poking through the thick carpet of old oak leaves. This brought to mind some other favorite flowers in our summer garden, hence the gaillardias and sunflower.

Our canapy of oak trees is represented, as well as the constant buzzing of the bumble bees. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each character finds their proper place and then it is time to add the details.

Above is the basic composition, so far.  Currently, I am assenbling and embroidering all the independent units before they can be appliqued to the background. But as long as the characters are unattached they can still change position, so there could be some more adjustments made. Below, with the magic of a Photoshop, you can see it with the eventual black border.

Each phase of working on a quilt is satisfying. Right now I have hours of stitching to look forward to, which is a luxury, indeed!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wonderful Woolly Willow Rug

I am very excited to show you this special project by Lois Conradi, a talented Canadian quilter and rug hooker. I met Lois during a visit to the Orchard Valley Quilt Guild in beautiful Kelowna, BC, Canada. Always anxious to have my designs translated into other mediums, I quizzed Lois about the art of rug hooking. It has been on my list of interests for many years, but have never found the time to try it. I love it's folk art quality. Luckily, Lois was adventurous enough to interpret the Wee Willow pattern into wool.

First she decided to enlarge the pattern to a 25" square to allow for better detail. Then she traced the design onto the Red Dot paper, which is like a transparent interfacing. Next she taped her tracing on to "primitive"even-weave linen, which is the backing fabric, and used a Rub-a-Dub laundry marking pen to transfer the design to the linen. The linen is also finished with a machine zig zag stitch to prevent fraying.

The whole rug is worked in "5 cut" widths of Dorr Wool from the Dorr Mill Store. The "new" black wool was washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer to felt the wool. It is deliciously black and really sets off the bright colors. The bright wools were hand colored with Cushing or Pro Chem dyes, which created wonderfully variegated colors. The blue flowers were made from recycled wool fabric.

Here is a page from Lois explaning the size of the fabric cut. She highly recommends The Rug Hookers Bible by Jane Olson and Rug Hooking Magazine to learn the finer aspects of the art. In this detail, you can see the scrumptious undulations and subtle patterns made from little loops of wool. Even the whitish background is packed with rhythm and texture. Like little highways of tiles, these kernels of color make the surface intimately interesting.

The rug is also terrifically tactile. It is hefty, but very malleable, almost like soft chain mail. Once fondled, it is really difficult to put down! I stop by several times a day just to give it a feel.

After the rug is hooked, the edges are whip-stitched with black Briggs & Little wool around a double strand of cotton cord. Then the black twill tape was stitched on by hand to cover the linen edges and add durability. The back is almost as lovely as the front!

Lois, your work is beautiful! Thank you for your energy and effort in this project! But I can see that one hooked rug is not enough! Now I think I need one in every room!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Think Pink!

It's hard to believe that it's March already! Here in the Midwest spring is in the air. The birds are singing and the snow is slowly melting. The old saying, "in like a lamb and out like a lion"is bound to be put to the test this month... along with the groundhog's prediction. But the optimism of spring fills me with encouragement.

Spring is also foreshadowed in the shifting of seasonal sunlight. Here the afternoon sun shines through the high windows of the apple green guest room. A change of seasons requires a new look, especially for bed dressings. This pink and green quilt is definitely a refreshing transformation. It is basically a log cabin block exploded to a giant size. Rows of the Mulberry Coleus and Jack-in-the-Pulpit alternate with strips of green Fronds from the violet colorway of the Sunshine & Shadow fabrics. Black sashing and yellow corner blocks create a graphic rhythm that holds the design together. The pillows are also made from Sunshine and Shadow fabrics. Amazing how a new pillowcase can make you feel so good!

Check out this blooming bag created by my friend, Melissa Peda. It is so pretty and optimistic that it makes me sigh! She is using the same mulberry fabrics as in the quilt, but that pink lining really puts "spring" in mind. The Easy Street Bag is Melissa's original pattern and I love the scoop with the button closure. This cheerful purse and many other fun creations can be seen at her colorful Etsy shop, 100 Billion Stars. Thank you, Melissa, for your enthusiasm and generosity. Think spring and think pink!